Teen/ YA fantasy
Of Cages and Crowns Book Cover Of Cages and Crowns
Brianna Joy Crump
Teen, Young Adult, Fantasy
Wattpad Books
November 22, 2022
Kindle, Hardback

For goddess-touched girls, there is only one destiny: the Culling

From the moment Monroe Benson is born with a mark on her hand and the ability to summon fire from her fingertips, her life will never be her own. She’s goddess-touched, which means she’s destined to participate in the Culling, an age-old competition to determine the next queen of Erydia. For most of her seventeen years, her family has managed to keep Monroe―and her powers―hidden. But now, as Queen Viera calls for the Culling to start, and war looms on the horizon, Monroe can no longer hide. She must face her destiny whether she wants to or not.

For the ten goddess-touched girls, all with different powers, the inevitably of this fight to the death has always ruled their lives. The tradition is both barbaric and cruel, but to make matters worse―Monroe isn’t prepared. She hasn’t trained her whole life for this day. She doesn’t want to be in the spotlight. She doesn’t want the crown.

While Monroe struggles with her fate, a rebellion is brewing in the castle and in the country. A group called the Culled are banding together; their goal―to topple the monarchy. And the more they rise, the more merciless Viera is with her kingdom, recruiting younger and younger people from poorer and poorer places to fight in a war no one wants to be waging.

When Monroe finds herself on the front lines of the rebellion’s inner circle, only one thing stands in her way: Cohen. The queen’s son and the man who will be king. The pair grows close, yet Cohen’s dedication to duty, to family, to tradition stands in stark contrast to the boy Monroe sees at night in the kitchens, secretly making the two of them a snack.

As the fight crescendos around them, and the death of innocents becomes a reality, the choices Monroe makes will reverberate through the kingdom . . . and her heart forever.

The Game of Cages and Crowns – it was familiar. The object of the game was to protect your goddess-touched card at all costs. There was only one prince card in the draw pile, and you wanted to get it, since it would ‘unlock’ the cage card that sat between the players and the crown card.

Of Cages and Crowns is the debut work of Brianna Joy Crump. This Teen/YA work is a fantasy experience that melds or draws from elements of series like The Selection, The Hunger Games, and The Red Queen. It’s The Bachelor experience for the contestants, who are given goddess-touched special magical abilities at birth, with victory in one on one contests the only way of survival. The MC, Monroe, wins the attention of both Prince Cohen and his younger sister, Uri, as she is forced to participate in a competition that she has spent her whole life hiding from. As Monroe trains and competes she grows not only personally but in her understanding of the bigger picture of the monarchy as well as a metastisizing rebellion that is about the reach a point of no return, which will pit Monroe’s two brothers against each other and make her choose a side.

As a first novel, Of Cages and Crowns demonstrates Brianna’s potential as a solid fantasy writer. Her style is clear, engaging, and makes it easy to be drawn into the world she is creating. Her characters are solid, varied, and have a depth to them. Even though her story uses established tropes she puts her own twists to them. The book concludes with an ending that I ddn’t see coming which leaves open the possibility for more of Monroe’s story in the future. Having said all this I just couldn’t get past my fatigue with the continual attempts to mix and match the different series that have been highly successful. While not necessarily a bad idea it just loses it unique flavor and ability to captivate a me. At least in the case of Of Cages and Crowns, it was not marketed to be the next Selection or Hunger Games, which I appreciated. The romance between Monroe and Cohen also had too much of an Instalove feel to it. Since the whole competition is revolves around winning a relationship with the Prince, even though its totally based on the one on one battles between the girls, the relationship and connection between them is a lynch pin in the plot. This story is more of a YA than Teen book in my view because it includes almost sex scenes and highly descriptive violence. I view it as more appropriate for older teens.

While not listed as part of a series, the ending and number of unfinished plot lines, for the main character and a few of the supporting cast, leads me to think there is going to be another book. I will be game to read it if it comes out and I encourage you to experience Brianna’s work for yourself.